The government's plan to abolish community health councils came under renewed fire from MPs this week.

But Liberal Democrat and Conservative members of the Commons standing committee on the Health and Social Care Bill lost a joint amendment calling for clause 14 of the bill - which would axe CHCs - to be dropped.

The amendment had no support from Labour members of the committee - the majority - but Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow told HSJ: 'It is an issue we will be returning to at the report stage and in the Lords. '

Mr Burstow said his main criticism of the system proposed to replace CHCs was that it was 'not going to be a patient-centred system - It is a provider-centred system'.

A Department of Health briefing on how the system will work revealed that the most contentious part of the new proposals - securing the independence of the successor body that will support complainants after CHCs are abolished - is still up in the air.

The independent advocacy service in each area could be commissioned by a local authority or a health body, it says, or it 'could be provided by a local authority or one of many public or voluntary sector bodies that provide a high standard of advocacy'.

The DoH is disputing figures revealed last week in HSJ that put the cost of the new arrangements at five times the current cost of CHCs.

A spokesperson said the costing was 'likely to be half ' the£114m figure put forward by the Association of CHCs for England and Wales.